President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the removal of at least five MPs from heading parliamentary committees, in what is seen as a continuation of the purge against lawmakers loyal to Deputy President William Ruto.
With just over six months to the General Election, the President wants to tighten his grip on the ruling Jubilee Party, which is in pre-election coalition talks with the Orange Democratic Movement party of his Handshake partner Raila Odinga, who is perceived to be the DP’s main challenger in the presidential polls.
Sources told the Nation that Jubilee had written show-cause letters to the MPs, requiring them to explain why they should keep their positions as they’re no longer loyal to the President and the party. The MPs — David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East), Katoo ole Metito (Kajiado South), Catherine Waruguru (Laikipia Woman Rep), Ali Wario (Bura) and Kareke Mbiuki (Maara) — were elected on Jubilee tickets but are accused of gallivanting with the DP’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
Others whose heads are on the chopping board when the House resumes its sittings on January 25 are Rashid Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga) and William Kisang’ (Marakwet West). Yesterday, Mr Mbiuki, who chairs the Environment Committee, confirmed receiving the letter and declared he was guilty as charged. Revival of a crackdown “Yes,” the MP responded when asked whether he had received the letter demanding his removal from the position.
“I gladly accepted the verdict without reservation,” he added. National Assembly Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe told the Nation on Tuesday the lawmakers had been given seven days to respond to the letter. “If they provide satisfactory and convincing answers, the matter will not proceed beyond the letter. If no satisfactory answer is provided, the party will be free to de-whip them from those positions,” he said.
The purge will be a revival of the crackdown that began two years ago. In the last purge, Garissa Township MP Aden Duale was removed as majority leader in the National Assembly and was replaced by Kipipiri’s Amos Kimunya. In the Senate, Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen was replaced by West Pokot’s Samuel Poghisio in changes that saw ODM, the main party in the minority, allowed to chair some of the committees in both Houses.
Other casualties of the crackdown were then-Senate deputy Speaker Kindiki Kithure, Whips Benjamin Washiali (National Assembly) and Susan Kihika (Senate). On Tuesday, except for Mr Mbiuki, other targeted lawmakers neither picked calls from the Nation nor responded to text messages. Infamous purgeInitially an ally of DP Ruto, Mr Gikaria returned to Mr Kenyatta’s fold in 2019 and was spared the infamous purge in 2020 that saw all Tangatanga MPs removed from their parliamentary leadership positions in favour of those who support the President and Mr Odinga.
Mr Gikaria, who chairs the influential Energy Committee, seems to have lost his faith in the President and returned to Tangatanga, drawing the party’s fury. Just like Mr Gikaria, Ms Waruguru had also abandoned Tangatanga in 2020 after a meeting with Mr Odinga where she expressed her willingness to work with the handshake team on critical national issues.
For her return, she was appointed vice-chairperson of the Agriculture Committee. But Ms Waruguru abandoned the handshake team and returned to the DP’s fold. Formerly the chairperson of the Labour Committee, Mr Wario was redeployed to the Regional Integration Committee during the 2020 purge, but Jubilee has grown increasingly jittery with him after he started flirting with the DP.Mr Metito chairs the powerful Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, Mr Kisang’ heads the ICT Committee and is an unrepentant DP supporter, and Mr Mwashetani is the vice-chairperson of the Lands Committee.